Accused Abbotsford police officers' investigations could be re-opened
'Even if the client was guilty as heck, I'd still be seeking to have the conviction reviewed,' expert says
The massive investigation into corruption at the Abbotsford Police Department has cast a dark shadow on investigations done by the accused officers.
"If I were a defence lawyer representing a client, even if the client was guilty as heck, I'd still be seeking to have the conviction reviewed," said Rob Gordon, a SFU professor of criminology.
On Wednesday, 16 Abbotsford police officers and one Vancouver Police officer were charged with alleged misconduct. In addition, Abbotsford Const. Christopher Nicholson faces criminal charges of attempting to obstruct justice, breach of trust and unsafe storage of a firearm.
The police force has 220 officers, of which nearly 10 per cent is under investigation.
With public confidence potentially damaged, Gordon predicts this will lead to the reopening of some of their old cases and quite possibly even throw out convictions based on their investigations.
Some lawyers, such as Paul Doroshenko, have already begun checking if any evidence that was used against his clients came from one of the search warrants that are now part of the investigation.
"Right now I can tell you, not just myself, but other lawyers across the Lower Mainland that are dealing with cases from Abbotsford are probably looking very closely at the information police have reported in files they have outstanding, and probably cases that go back a few years," he said.
"If you've got officers whose integrity and reliability and honesty are in question, I can tell you, that can be the end of a prosecution."
Police chief downplays seriousness
Abbotsford's police chief Bob Rich did his best to downplay the seriousness of the investigation, saying much of it has to do with drug investigations, handling of informants and procedural errors.
"I need you to understand that if I did not have confidence in the integrity of these members, I would have suspended them. I have not done that," he said.
"They are, in my view, great cops. They continue to serve this community even while under investigation, and I am proud of how they have conducted themselves during difficult times."
Gordon said the optics don't look good for Abbotsford police, but the public should wait for all of the details to come out before rushing to judgment. He also pointed out it was the Abbotsford police that asked for the investigation in the first place.
"A lot of the information about the wrongdoing has come from within, so it's the Abbotsford Police Department police officers, sworn members, that have blown the whistle and blew the whistle some time ago. And I'm sure they're cooperating to the nth degree."
With files from Jesse Johnston and Eric Rankin